Unusual Sentence Structure

I am re-reading the Wheel of Time series, and I’ve noticed that Robert Jordan used an odd sentence structure that I haven’t really seen anywhere else.  He (or his editor) must have liked it, as it shows up on a regular basis throughout the first three books.  Here are two examples from The Dragon Reborn:

“It was one of the two large men — Sanor or Vasa; he did not give his name — who came to pull the captain’s iron-bound money chest from under the bed.”

“The road led to arched gates twenty feet high, standing open under the watchful eye of red-coated Queen’s Guards in their shining breastplates — they eyed Thom and him no more than anyone else, not even the quarterstaff slanted across his saddle in front of him; all they cared was that people keep moving, it seemed — and then they were within.”

The dashes adding extra detail to the sentence aren’t unusual, nor is the semicolon.  What you don’t see as often is the combination of the two.  It took me a minute when I saw this the first time to completely grasp what is going on with the structure.  My first thought was that the semicolon separated two thoughts that each required a dash, but based on the contents I realized that I was reading it wrong.  The semicolon is for the stuff inside the dashes; the thought contained there needs (or at least benefits from) the punctuation.  Once I wrapped my head around the concept, this structure seems as normal as any other in the novels.

Like many fantasy authors, Jordan is a fan of long sentences.  (See the second example above if you don’t believe me!)  Combining punctuation, like dashes and semicolons, helps make longer sentences possible without adding too much confusion for the reader.  Have you seen any other unusual sentence structures in your reading?


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